Kawhis for everybody
Look, there's no getting around it and pretending it didn't happen. The Finals loss to Miami was terrible, truly one of the worst experiences any of us will have as sports fans. Ultimate glory cruelly snatched away from us with just seconds to go, and then a whole other back-and-forth loss two nights later to drive the final nail home into our coffin. It was a bitter pill to swallow and we'll all have that taste in our mouths for as long as we live.
Yet life goes on. Sports go on. Personally, I've thrown myself into the Confederations Cup, which is neat because I happen to like soccer. Some of you may have switched over to baseball or golf, tennis, whatever. The real weirdos among you may have even decided to devote more attention to your families. Whatever, it's not for me to judge.
The neat thing about the NBA is that it offers a way for the 29 teams that didn't win the golden ball to quickly turn the page: The Draft. The off-season officially starts now, meaning that 2013 is done and dusted and 2014 is all that matters and no matter how dreadful the draft class looks on paper, I for one am almost relieved it came when it did, just to have something else to think about for a few minutes.
I decided the only appropriate cause of action was to buy a pizza, trudge over to the sweaty, steamy dungeon that is my apartment, and chronicle all five hours of the draft for posterity. We'll get through this together and never speak of it it again.
4:27 It’s been roughly 30 seconds since I tuned in and I’m already incredibly annoyed. ESPN, in their infinite wisdom, has recruited Shane Battier as a correspondent for this draft and showed a montage of his Game 7 three-pointers as way of introduction. I’m telling you, they hate us.
"Game 7 of the Finals has nothing on the NBA Draft," Battier says, and I have no idea if he’s being serious.
4:32 Customary boos for David Stern. He's almost giggling. Has anyone ever enjoyed being booed so much? Now he's talking about how awesome the Heat are. He is clearly trolling us all.
4:35 A clip from last month's draft lottery, where Nick Gilbert, son of Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, talks about his lottery-winning skills, though I think winning the first pick of the 2013 NBA Draft is about as thrilling as winning a free medium fries during one of McDonald's "Monopoly" giveaways. [Note: The original joke here was inappropriate. I had no idea about Nick Gilbert's medical condition. Sincere apologies.]
4:38 Jay Bilas notes the absurdity of Nerlens Noel, the likely number one overall pick, being a 216-pound 7-footer who "can't score well and is on crutches." It's going to be that kind of draft. Simmons is firmly on the Victor Oladipo bandwagon. I'm surprised there haven't been any Greg Oden/Kevin Durant analogies. Jalen Rose calls Nerlens Noel "the safe pick." Bilas is talking up Ben McLemore. To me, these names might as well have been auto-created by Madden's draft generator.
4:41 What? The Cavs took Anthony Bennett, a PF from UNLV. My guess is he’s tight with LeBron James. Everyone is shocked. Bilas is comparing him to Larry Johnson, a decent pro who fell well short of a Hall-of-Fame career due to back injuries. No word how Bennett looks in a dress and pearls. By the way, anybody realize that Tyler Perry’s "Madea" character was ripped off from those "Grandmama" ads? Johnson (or Converse) should’ve sued for royalties.
Photo by Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
4:45 This nugget from Battier interviewing Bennett: "Here are the number one picks: Jabbar, Magic, LeBron, Bennett. How does that sound?" No pressure. Follow up question: "You’re also the highest-drafted Canadian ever." I gotta say, I already like Battier more than Stuart Scott. He should transition into this job immediately and retire from the NBA.
Random thought: I wonder if Kawhi Leonard’s Finals success played any role in this pick, as in, "Say, guys from the Mountain West Conference can play." Eh, probably not. Don’t mind me, I’m an idiot. The panel is expressing concerns that Bennett won’t keep his weight in check. Anytime you can draft a 6’8 DeJuan Blair first overall, you know you’re headed for a great draft.
4:47 The Magic practically sprain their collective ankles running up to the podium to draft Victor Oladipo, a shooting guard from Indiana, in case the Cavs wanted a do-over. I’m guessing they were confident about this pick. I’m just ecstatic that the Thunder didn’t trade for him.
After praising Oladipo’s athleticism, Bilas says of Oladipo’s improved shooting: "He can make wide open ones now." Oh. Just like Dwyane Wade!
4:50 Oladipo keeps referring to the Magic organization as "that program." Somewhere Pop just shed a tear. "He’s going to improve their culture," Bilas gushes.
4:52 Noel keeps slipping as the Wizards grab Georgetown forward Otto Porter Jr., who looks positively delighted to be shaking Stern’s hand. He’s a longish thin guy who’s being compared to Tayshaun Prince or Bruce Bowen. They better hope he’s more offensively gifted than that or else this pick stinks. "Nobody knew who Otto Porter Jr. was out of high school," Bilas warns. I’m telling you, everyone is looking for the next Kawhi.
Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images
4:59 Well if you weren’t convinced before that Cody Zeller is going to be a bust, he just got drafted fourth overall by Michael Jordan. Bilas refers to Zeller as an "outstanding athlete" which leads me to remark aloud in my room, in an Arrested Development flashback, "Him?"
Zeller’s 35.5-inch standing vertical is a combine record, according to Bilas, but this kid still looks like he’s going to get rag-dolled around the paint. "Has trouble finishing in traffic but I think he can wind up developing into a stretch four in the NBA., Bilas goes on to explain. Oof. Best of luck to him.
5:07 The Suns select Maryland center Alex Len, who came over from the Ukraine. "He needs to learn to play harder and he tends to shy away from contact," Bilas notes. Translation: Terrible pick. Guys don’t learn to play hard. They either have it or they don’t. Len has the Ukraine flag in the lining of his suit jacket and says he’s excited to play against Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett, who he’s been watching since he was young. I doubt either of those guys are watching this, but if they were, they’d be no doubt thinking, "Fresh meat."
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5:12 New Orleans finally selects Noel, a center from Kentucky, which would be really exciting for them if they didn’t draft him already last year. Noel needs to go on an all-beignet diet immediately. Noel is also rocking a Norris Cole haircut.
Simmons loves the pick. "If I’m a guy who likes to go to the rim, I’m terrified of the Pelicans," he says, proving again, that Simmons has almost no idea how modern pro athletes think about things. Also, if the 2013 Finals taught us anything, it’s that shooting threes is more important these days than interior play.
5:16 I’m shocked it’s been four minutes and nobody’s made the Nerlens/N’Orleans connection. Way to drop the ball, fellas.
5:17 The Kings grab a shooting guard for the fifteenth straight year in Kansas’ Ben McLemore. Bilas says he’s the likeliest guy in the draft class to be an All-Star. "He needs to use screens to get his shot, right now he’s a two dribble max guy," Bilas says, adding, "The only question is his personality."
Um… I’d be kind of worried about that whole "not being able to dribble thing," myself.
McLemore was chewing gum during his interview, so he’s off to a great start as a pro already.
5:24 Andy Katz cuts in to say that Noel will be getting shipped to the Sixers. Well, that makes more sense. Two towers, schmoo towers, I say.
5:25 The Pistons grab Georgia guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the SEC Player of the Year, who’s a jump-shooting specialist according to Bilas. Rece Davis said KCP had it tough at Georgia because he didn’t have much talent around him. Those days are well behind him now though, since he’ll be joining the Pistons’ offensive juggernaut.
5:30 Consider the source since it’s Chris Broussard, but he’s reporting that the Sixers are going to give up Jrue Holliday for Noel. I don’t like that trade for Philly at all.
5:32 The Wolves pick Michigan’s Trey Burke, proving that even with GM David Kahn long gone they’ll still keep drafting point guards for no reason when they already have Ricky Rubio. Simmons endorses the pick, saying "I think he’s going to have a chip on his shoulder and you want ‘chip on his shoulder’ guys," literally minutes after he lambasted Kahn for drafting too many point guards.
Wait, supposedly Burke is gonna be shipped to the Jazz, so okay.
5:36 The Blazers select C.J. McCollum, from my old man’s alma mater, Lehigh. He’s a point guard, just like Damian Lillard who won Rookie of the Year for the Blazers last year, so expect another trade.
All the highlights show him shooting and scoring and not passing, but a graphic mentioned "willing passer," so that sounds promising. The Blazers will allow 125 points a game next year.
Analyst Tom Penn, a proud graduate of the Magic Johnson School of Broadcasting, on McCollum: "Will he find teammates and make them shot opportunities?"
5:45 The Sixers grab Michael Carter-Williams, another guard. "He’s not a shooter," Bilas declares. Philly and Charlotte are all but publicly declaring that Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins will be playing for them in 2014.
5:49 The Thunder are up and they’re showing a graphic about last season’s James Harden’s trade, which Simmons emphatically boos again. "You know who loved that trade," Simmons says rhetorically, "San Antonio." (Guilty.)
"The Thunder still would’ve made the Finals if Russell Westbrook didn’t get injured," counters Rose, who spent every Spurs playoff game watching Fab Five highlights on Youtube.
5:53 The Thunder grab Kiwi Steven Adams from Pitt, a seven-foot energy guy who’s still learning the game. He just started picking up basketball ten minutes ago and he’s already better than Kendrick Perkins.
We go on to learn that Adams is one of 18 kids and two of his sisters medaled in the shotput in the Olympics. Meanwhile his mother can fire a shot-put from [this sentence was self-redacted before JRW even had a chance to delete it.]
Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images
Simmons is still flipping out about the Harden trade. He may be flipping out about it 20 years from now.
5:56 Broussard is reporting the Mavs are trying to get rid of the 13th pick so they can save salary cap room for a run at Dwight Howard. Like Rose, Mark Cuban also didn’t watch the playoffs, apparently.
5:59 The Mavs select Gonzaga center Kelly Olynyk, a Tim Lincecum-lookalike who will be shipped to the Celtics. Bilas charitably calls him a "not an elite athlete but a good athlete," while citing his weaknesses in rebounding and shot-blocking. I’m delighted by all of this.
6:04 Utah takes UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad, a likely team-cancer and coach-killer, and will flip him to Minnesota for Burke. I love this move for the Jazz, which means Muhammad is a lock for Springfield.
6:11 The run on Euros may be starting as the Bucks grab Giannis Antetokounmpo, whom foreign analyst Fran Frischilla describes as having a "Kevin Durant body," who's a couple years away from being ready for the league. Simmons likens him to a "Greek Paul George," so I can’t wait to see LeBron blow by him for the game-winning layup with a second to go while Larry Drew keeps Larry Sanders on the bench.
6:17 The Celtics grab Brazilian center Lucas Nogueira, who tries to shoehorn a Celtics lid on his afro with little success. Supposedly headed to the Mavs in that Olynyk trade, Nogueria is a Brazilian Noel, without the knee issues and a sweeter haircut. If I’m the Mavs I’d have picked him outright instead of the Gonzaga kid, but what do I know?
Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images
6:23 The Hawks snap up the German Rajon Rondo in Dennis Schroeder, though I don’t know how that nickname makes sense when all Frischilla and Penn are talking about is how well he shoots. Darn, this kid woulda made a nice Spur. I’m sad now.
Bilas comments that Hawks GM Danny Ferry was on the Spurs back when "they drafted Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, I think in the same year at 30 and 57 respectively." These things happen when you fire Howie Schwab.
6:30 With back-to-back picks the Hawks take Miami point guard Shane Larkin, who helped me get destroyed in my NCAA pool with his poor play. I had no idea he was Barry Larkin’s son, but the fact that he chose basketball instead of baseball is all you need to know about the state of African-Americans in MLB today. Also, the panel noted that the Hawks just took point guards on consecutive picks. "Is David Kahn consulting for them?" Simmons asked.
Naturally Larkin is being shipped to the Mavs, because Cuban gets bored easy on draft day.
6:38 The Cavs take Russian swingman Sergey Karasev, who was on the Olympic team in 2012 as an 18-year-old, who flew all the way from Europe just to shake David Stern’s hand and now has to take a flight to Serbia to play for the Russian national team. I’m sure he’ll be fresh as a daisy.
6:40 The Bulls took New Mexico guard Tony Snell, who wasn’t in Brooklyn, so Stern introduced Muhammad instead, wearing a Jazz hat. Everything about that sentence makes no sense.
6:51 Stern hams it up for the crowd, smiles into the microphone and says, "We have to tell the international audience that in America the boo is a sign of great respect," which draws a bunch of cheers, ironically. With the 21st pick the Jazz selects Louisville center Gorgui Dieng, another rebounder/shot-blocker who’s headed to Minnesota in the Burke trade.
6:57 Duke center Mason Plumlee is going to the Nets, which surprisingly pleases the crowd. Bilas explains that he was the best player left on his board, so maybe that’s why. I kind of secretly wanted this guy to fall to the Spurs, alas. I wonder how many practices it’s gonna take before Kevin Garnett suckerpunches him in the back of the head.
6:59 Look at them chompers on Plumlee. If basketball doesn’t work out there’s always the Kentucky Derby.
7:04 Arizona forward Solomon Hill goes to the Pacers. All the Hills. Bilas compares him to Warriors forward Draymond Green, as if "eighth-man on fringe contender" is something to aspire to as a first-round pick. The Pacers have zero bench though so I’m sure he’ll get some run.
7:09 Tim Hardaway Jr. to the Knicks. The crowd goes bonkers and Spike Lee loves it. I’m almost positive this kid blows but I’ve been wrong before. "He has to work on his handle," Bilas cautions and I’m blown away how Tim Hardaway’s kid can have a bad handle. I feel so old.
7:12 ESPN interviews Spike Lee because of course they do. "We can’t have a three-peat next year," Lee pleads, as if the Knicks are our Obi-Wan.
7:15 The Clippers take North Carolina guard Reggie Bullock. "Another shooter," Simmons chirps and at this point I’m calling BS. If everybody in this draft could shoot, then the tournament wouldn’t have been such an abomination.
"Is there Danny Green 2.0 potential with him?" Simmons asks, with Bilas replying, "I don’t think he’s as athletic." Uh-oh. Meanwhile, Rose has been reduced to making random sound effects and song lyrics. He looks worn down. Do we have anyone in the analyst bullpen for him?
7:20 The T-Pups flip the 26th pick to my hometown Warriors, per Andy Katz. They need to replace Carl Landry and Jarrett Jack and also a better starting frontcourt and a better coach. The Warriors take Colorado forward Andre Roberson, who looks undersized.
7:23 Denver takes French center Rudy Gobert one spot ahead of the Spurs, who Chad Ford had taking Gobert. Just a crushing turn of events. This is like the final 30 seconds of Game 6 of the Finals, only totally not that.
Gobert’s arms look longer than my legs. "How was he not the first pick?" Simmons asks incredulous upon seeing him in person. My room is a furnace.
7:32 Spurs take Livio Jean-Charles, the French Kawhi Leonard! HAHAHA. He had 27 points and 13 rebounds in the Nike Hoop Summit Game. He won't be coming over this season, which is of course par for the course for San Antonio. I feel vindicated. Six for six now, the Spurs always go foreigner with the 28th pick.
The neat thing is that if and when the Spurs decide to bring LJC over to the states, there probably won't be a fussy buyout negotiation between his European team since this smiling fellow is the owner of said team.
7:42 Thunder take Kentucky guard Archie Goodwin, as my interest in this draft has dropped 843 percent. I’ll get back to you when something interesting happens.
7:52 Real cool moment, with the league bringing back Hakeem Olajuwon, the first draft pick of David Stern’s 30-year reign as commissioner, to the podium for a hug and a photo-op as he finishes up announcing the Suns pick of Nemanja Nedovic, the "Serbian Derrick Rose." Excellent point by Simmons in that it was perfectly appropriate that the Nigerian-born Olajuwon was Stern’s first pick since the draft got so international under his watch.
7:58 Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry going to the Nets for Gerald Wallace, Reggie Evans, the douche-tastic Kris Humphries, Keith Bogans and first round picks in 2014, 2016 and 2018 per Broussard. Whoa. Some pieces for coach Kidd and crazy rich Russian owner Mikhail Prokhorov. Now all he needs is a tiny giraffe. Simmons is trying to control himself from swearing on camera.
On the bright side the Celtics are refusing to concede the Wiggins/Parker draft to the Bobcats and Sixers.
8:03 The first two picks of the second round are the Cavs taking Cal guard Allen Crabbe, who a bunch of Spurs fans wanted, and the Thunder taking Spanish guard Alex Abrines, whom I wanted. Dammit. Simmons is openly asking for alcohol at this point and I’m right there with him.
8:12 I just realized that the Nets potentially have Brook Lopez, Joe Johnson, Deron Williams, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce as a starting five, with Miles Plumlee and Jason Terry on their bench. I’m not a cap expert, but how can they afford that?
8:15 Pistons second round pick Tony Mitchell from North Texas looked alternately mean and sleepy in his close-up. I’ve never seen anything like it. Growl! Zzzzzz! Growl! Zzzzzz.
8:25 Spurs assistant coach Brett Brown will take top job with the Sixers according to Leigh Ellis from The Basketball Jones, who’s a native Aussie. Who’s Pop supposed to not listen to now?
8:28 Grizzlies take guard Jamaal Franklin and that looks like a terrible pick from them. When’s the last time an SDSU guy did anything in the NBA?
8:36 I just took a cold shower. I wish I could say it was because I was *really* excited about LVC, but really it’s hotter than the Earth’s core in my apartment right now.
8:38 Providence guard Ricky Ledo to the Bucks at 43, Virginia Tech guard Erick Green to Utah at 46. All the Spurs draftniks out there are sad. I’m blissfully meh.
8:47 After deputy commissioner announced the Bulls’ pick of Florida forward Erik Murphy, Simmons perked up, "The guy from Entourage?" Despite myself, I’ve enjoyed him tonight.
8:53 Ooh! Shots fired between Doc Rivers and Simmons. "I would like to call him an idiot but I’m too classy for that. He really needs to know the whole truth but he doesn’t," Rivers barks at Shelley Smith.
Simmons fires back, "Just own what you did!"
Bilas and Rose were too afraid to say anything. That was great.
9:08 With the 58th pick the Spurs take Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas, a small forward who, according to Chad Ford, knows how to score inside and out but isn’t a great athlete, doesn’t have the best motor and doesn’t care about defense ... so we’ll never hear from him again.
And with that I’m calling a night. Your big winners were the Nets and the Pelicans, not for the picks they made but rather the ones they gave up to get established players. Onto free agency!